Danger of Driver Fatigue

Ten years ago, it was estimated that driver fatigue was the cause of 2-3% of all auto accidents. A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, however, has thrown that theory in disarray: It is now estimated that at least 20% of all vehicular accidents are the result of fatigue.

It is every driver’s responsibility to be awake and aware when behind the wheel. This means more than just downing an energy drink; it means having the humility and understanding to get off the road when symptoms of fatigue occur:

  • Yawning

  • Boredom

  • Memory problems

  • Lack of focus

  • Soreness in eyes

  • Inconsistent driving habits including unstable steering, acceleration, etc.

The biggest danger when these symptoms occur is not falling asleep at the wheel. That happens rarely. What happens all too commonly is called microsleep, a sleep pattern that can last from a couple of seconds up to four minutes. Microsleep on the road can often lead to fatal road crashes and, due to what appears to be a statistical realignment of many Americans’ sleep habits, is a growing concern on the nation’s roadways–especially among younger drivers.

Liability and Driver Fatigue

When a semi truck is involved in an accident on the roads of New Mexico, that driver is accountable in a variety of ways:

  • Required log books

  • Records kept through onboard GPS tracking

  • Cell phone records

Most commonly, the driver keeps a personal log which may establish a pattern of pushing too hard while on the road. Tracking receipts may be a way to establish driver fatigue on the road as well. Some larger trucking firms now go so far as to have cameras mounted in the truck to monitor drivers for liability purposes.

When a fatigue-related accident occurs and the driver is not a professional, however, then legally establishing that the fatigued state caused the accident can be more difficult. The same principles apply, however: gathering evidence, whether from cell phone records, GPS records from that day (assuming that the driver owns a car-mounted GPS or used their cell phone for such purposes during the day), anecdotal evidence from other people, etc. In addition, if witnesses can be found that can describe erratic driving immediately before the accident occurred, then it may be possible to establish a fatigued driving state.

Driver Fatigue and the Law

If you become fatigued while driving, pull over and take a power nap. Don’t worry about being late, missing the big meeting, pickup up your spouse or children from the airport, etc. Your life, and the lives of those around you, are far more important than the ten minutes you need to set aside to rest your body.

If you feel you have been the victim of a fatigued-while-driving incident, whether in any of the situations listed below, then you need a personal injury lawyer:

  • Driver fell asleep while driving, colliding with another vehicle and causing injury

  • Driver fell asleep, crashing into property and causing damage

  • Driver fell asleep, crashing car and causing injury to others in the same vehicle

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